Mascom launches mHealth projects


Image: By John Churu
Mascom launches mHealth projects

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

Mascom will this week launch far-reaching mHealth projects in Botswana.

Mascom has been collaborating with PING (Positive Innovation for the Next Generation) to improve the quality and efficiency of disease surveillance in Botswana through mobile health monitoring technology.

The initiative enables health workers to more efficiently predict, observe, and minimise the harm caused by outbreak situations, advancing the country toward its goal of malaria elimination. PING, supported in part by the US Government's PEPFAR programme, is undertaking several mobile health projects in Botswana and shares Mascom’s goal of supporting the Ministry of Health in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other ailments and in promoting the general health of the population.

New initiatives by Mascom include ‘The kgakololo Project’ which is a project developed by PING as an SMS-based support, reminder and information system for patients. The pilot project was first launched in March 2010 (SMS reminders for HIV-patients). The system provides patients with medication and doctor appointment reminders, feedback to questions and assistance in emergency situations via SMS and a toll free phone number.

A follow-up project is the Safe Male Circumcision Project, which came with the success of the Kgakololo Project.  PING is extending the service to Safe Male Circumcision (SMC) clients in which males who opt into the Government SMC outreach project are also given SMS-based support. Each patient will receive SMS’s, which include reminders for follow up appointments and supportive messaging during the healing process.   

On the list of initiatives to be unpacked by Mascom is the Disease Surveillance and Mapping Project. This programme equips healthcare workers in Botswana with HP Palm Pre 2 smart phones to collect malaria data, notify the Ministry of Health about an outbreak, and tag both data and disease surveillance information with a GPS coordinate. This data will contribute to a first-ever geographic map of disease transmission in the country, enabling faster response times and better measurement of malaria cases to monitor treatment and scale-up net coverage. The program’s pilot phase was the largest mobile health pilot program in Botswana, running throughout the malaria season. Future programs will expand to all outbreak-prone diseases in the region.

Mobile technology provided by Mascom will drastically improve malaria surveillance, by speeding data collection and generating more context-aware information. The project will allow for:

a) Data analysis in the cloud: The system enables healthcare workers to collect data via a Web application on a mobile device, upload the data over the mobile network, and analyse and share the data in the cloud. Through this system, analysis now takes hours rather than weeks to complete.

b) Rapid outbreak notification: When an outbreak is detected, healthcare workers can immediately upload specific case and location information from their mobile device in the field. All health officers in the area and members of the Ministry of Health then receive a text message alerting them of the outbreak, enabling rapid deployment of preventative measures to reduce disease transmission.

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